Archive for May, 2011

Videos: PGS Crime Issue and PSF 6 Issue Launch

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 31 - 2011

Here are videos from the joint PGS Crime Issue and PSF6 launch. First up is the PGS Crime launch in its entirety, split into two parts.

Don’t let Kyu’s modesty fool you, PGS is a very important part of the local genre scene, and I’m personally thrilled to see it online and reaching a wider audience.

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Call for Submissions: Philippine Speculative Fiction 7

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 30 - 2011

Fresh from the launch of the sixth volume of the anthology, submissions are now open for volume seven of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology. You can read the guidelines over at the blog of Kate Aton-Osias, who will be co-editing the next volume with her husband, Alex Osias. The most important bit of data of course is the deadline: The deadline for submissions is midnight, Manila time, September 30, 2011

Get cracking! You know you want to be one of the names on the back of the book.

PSF6 Launch Photos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 29 - 2011

PSF6_P1020171

The launch for the sixth volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction took place last Saturday, with the inimitable Dean Alfar once again serving as master of ceremonies and all-around entertainer–the PSF launches usually turn into roasts for the editors and contributors (and being absent is no defense) and a grand time was had by all. I’ll have videos from the launch and the earlier launch of the crime issue of Philippine Genre Stories later this week, but first here are some photographs from the event.

PSF6_P1020169

In spite of the rains, (and some *ahem* premature storm warnings), the UView Theater of Fully Booked was jam packed–this photo is from early in the proceedings, and by midway people were lining the walls, in spite of the addition of the monobloc cavalry. The downside to that is the volume sold out minutes after the launch was over–if you want another print run, make sure you make your voices heard!

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Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias Talk PSF6

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 26 - 2011

The latest installment of the Philippine Speculative Fiction series will be launched on Saturday (5PM at the UView Theater, Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street, for those interested–it’s also the launch of the PGS Crime issue). Volume 6 is the first to be edited by two women, Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias, and they graciously agreed to a short interview leading up to the launch. We spoke about how the series has evolved through the years, the difference between being an editor and a contributor, and what makes this volume special.


For those unfamiliar with the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, could you explain briefly what the series is?

Nikki Alfar: Philippine Speculative Fiction is the annual end result of our yearly semi-open call for submissions of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and related sub- and cross-genre short stories.

We say ‘semi-open’ because contributors must be of Filipino ethnicity and/or nationality; by soliciting and consistently publishing their work, our goal is not just to provide a medium for these authors to reach a reading public, but also to chart and, hopefully, nurture the ongoing evolution of speculative fiction in the Philippines.

Philippine Speculative Fiction is published by leading Philippine specfic advocate Dean Francis Alfar, through his company Kestrel DDM.

 

Kate, you’ve been a contributor to the anthology before, but this is your first time in the editor’s chair. What was the experience like from the other side, so to speak? Is the grass really greener?

Kate Aton-Osias: Editing has its own challenges, different from writing. The most difficult part for me was in being able to articulate acceptance and rejection letters well. I believe in being transparent; I also believe that authors deserve to know what made their stories work, and why it did not. But the sheer physical limitations of an email, as well as constraints of time and language (People have varying degrees of literary vocabulary; I, for one, know less of the formal terms used for literary criticism than I would like) makes it difficult to convey how we, as editors, felt about a work of fiction. Though I only wrote 3-5 sentences per story, it was still a struggle to get those 3-5 sentences out, especially when rejecting a story that had solid technicals, but was ultimately turned down because of our poetics (see below for definition of ‘Poetics’).

That being said, the process has been extremely helpful (My own submission letters will never be the same again!), illuminating, and of course, satisfying. It was good to hear from the authors – whether or not they were accepted – that they appreciated our comments and compliments.

 

Nikki, you’ve been involved with PSF from the very beginning, and have been both a contributor and an editor. How has the anthology changed from volume one to the present?

Nikki: I’ve actually been copy-editing (meaning checking for typos and grammatical errors) the series since volume 1, though I didn’t start content-editing (working with authors on a story level, as well as actually selecting the stories) until Dean formally asked me to co-edit, on volume 3. (Yes, I’m married to our publisher, which never helped get me published, but which did help him get me to copy-edit, haha!) So I’ve read nearly all the submissions, published and unpublished.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the goal of the SpecFic series is to chart the development of Philippine specfic writing, and if you look back at the previous volumes of the antho from the beginning, you can see that themes seem to emerge every year. Early on, our authorship seemed to be primarily concerned about romantic love, but as you go forward through succeeding volumes, you can see that the contributors and their concerns are maturing, with later themes more focused on subjects like loss, family, identity, and so on.

Thankfully, as well, there’s been a marked reduction in stories which are basically “I will write a fanfic based on my favorite anime, just change the names, and submit that.” We used to get a huge chunk of those in the first few years—and I’m sure these texts have their market, but it is not Philippine Speculative Fiction; we are simply not interested in stories that explore someone else’s already-well-developed milieu—but nowadays it’s down to just a few.

So, in sum, I’d say the anthology has progressed as the field seems to be progressing; there’s significant improvement, year after year—not just in terms of what Filipino specfic practitioners are writing about, but in the quality and experimental nature of how we are writing it.

 

Is there anything about this volume that makes it different from the others?

Nikki: We’ve been laughing for some time over this being the very first “two-chick SpecFic”! This is the second time that Dean has not been directly involved in the selection and editing process, the first having been last year’s volume 5, which I co-edited with Vincent Michael Simbulan.

As publisher, Dean has been changing up the mix of co-editors, because he doesn’t believe that Philippine speculative fiction (neither the antho nor the field) should be an exclusive reflection of one person’s (or two people’s, counting me) poetics. (A very simplified definition of ‘poetics’, in case anyone should be wondering, is ‘the kind of writing an individual prefers’.)

So 2010’s SpecFic was a reflection of Vin’s and my poetics—which are diametrically opposed in many aspects, by the way—whereas this one is Kate’s and mine, which tend to be more harmonious, but also (we found out!) startlingly different in various ways. With Dean and me having nailed down the foundations of the series’ style and substance in volumes 1 to 4, we feel that keeping the editorial mix fresh will continue to keep the anthology fresh and exciting.

Speaking of which—there’s going to be a possibly surprising announcement at the volume 6 launch, so don’t miss it! ;)

 

We have a lot of science fiction, fantasy and horror readers in the Philippines, but few are familiar with the works of local spec fic authors. Speaking to this typical reader for a moment, why should he/she check out PSF6?

Nikki: I doubt that many people know this, but Philippine speculative fiction (again, both antho and field) is getting a lot of positive attention from speculative fiction writers and editors around the world. Many stories from several of the volumes of SpecFic have been cited and/or published by some of the most respected names in the field, and members of the international writing community are actually quicker than our local audience to tell us that the next volume is taking too darn long!

In this upcoming volume alone, we’ve got stories about a basketball-playing kapre, a Muslim artificer (shout-out to you, Paolo!), and a therapist to aswangs and diwatas. These are just the most obvious examples of why Filipino specfic is special—it’s been (frequently!) recognized to be on par with global standards in terms of quality, yet with a fresh perspective, a fresh approach; and it’s all ours.

“Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 25 - 2011

Pericos Tao” is a comic from writer/artist Andrew Drilon which was released online recently by Top Shelf. It’s not a new work, but it hasn’t seen wide release until now–you may recall Adam David talking about it during our Rocket Round Table on favorite Philippine spec fic stories (slight spoilers here, so go read the comic first if you like–it’s only ten pages):

Barring my own set of scintillating sensurround scifi scintillations, the best Pinoy SpecFic story would be the unfortunately still largely unread “Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon. It was supposed to be part of Drilon’s Kare-Kare Komiks print remix a bunch of people – me included – tried their best to make manifest around the middle of 2008. I was the layout artist so I was privy to the actual finished pages – “actual finished pages” being actually “virtual” as Drilon assembled everything on computer – and I was one of maybe ten or so people who have seen the whole book (maybe I still am). The publisher ran out of money, so the project didn’t push through. The book was 96 pages of Drilon’s full-colour ChemSet strips, and a handful of new ones to round off the collection, some of which already saw publication in places, but not “Pericos Tao” for some reason.

“Pericos Tao” is one of those too few gay stories that’s ABOUT being gay and at the same time ISN’T in the sense that it isn’t pushing an agenda. It’s about a young man trying to escape the past, and, unsuccessful, finally decides to come to terms with it in his own terms. It makes use of a few characters/creatures from Visayan tradition and somehow making them not clunky as how most of these things are on the page more often than not. It also employs some formal play by way of recreating the young man’s Visayan childhood via impeccably mimicking Larry Alcala’s unmistakable cubist brushstrokes, while the present rendered as how Drilon renders his usual, only slightly better, all of these things running in synch all focused on telling the story, and telling it well. Of everything I’ve read by Drilon, or any one else’s in SpecFic for that matter (and I’ve probably read about 90% of what’s been published so far as of 05:04AM of 7 September 2009), “Pericos Tao” remains to be the most honest and most complete and most heartfelt and really just one of the best stories I’ve ever read, printed (or not) on paper. It’s really all just downhill from here for Drilon. I hope more people will get the chance to read “Pericos Tao,” before he decides to sell out and go manga on everyone. Make it so, Andrew!

High praise from someone very hard to impress. Intrigued? Then go check out Pericos Tao

Big Dreams and Awesome Costumes: An Interview with David Hontiveros

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 18 - 2011

David Hontiveros is one of the most prolific writers of speculative fiction in the country today. He’s won a Palanca award and been nominated for a National Book Award, and his work spans both prose (his Penumbra novellas) and comics (Bathala: Apokalypsis). Hontiveros recently re-released his online novel Pelicula as an ebook for the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.  I thought it might be a good time to talk to Dave about the novel, superheroes, fantaseryes, and the state of publishing in the country. Here’s what he had to say:

[Art by Kajo Baldisimo]

Tell us a little bit about Pelicula. Do you think it will appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy, particularly the superhero subgenre?

Pelicula’s about a young up-and-coming actor, Luis Conrado, as he navigates the tricky and turbulent waters of the Philippine showbiz industry, something that’s already difficult under normal real life circumstances.

In the novel, I’ve populated the industry with supernatural creatures from local folklore, who are the movers and shakers of the scene, multiplying the difficulties exponentially as a result.

Luis also happens to be the star of the highly-rated and uberpopular fantaserye, Habagat, on which he plays the title role, the super-bayani of the Philippines, Habagat.

Given that’s there a lot of superhero stuff in the novel– with some of my thoughts regarding superheroes, and what they mean to us as individuals and as a society, and the potentials of their physicality in the real world, informing the narrative– I sincerely hope that Pelicula appeals to that section of the audience into SF/fantasy and superheroes, of which I’m a proud member of, if that isn’t too obvious yet.

Of course, one always hopes for a broader section of readership, so hopefully other sections are pulled in by the romance angle, as Luis falls in love with a mannikin, an actress created by occult means to be the ultimate movie star. (So, aside from my thoughts about superheroes, some of the thoughts and impressions of a lifelong film geek about the film industry also serve to inform Pelicula.)

[Art by Ian Sta. Maria]

You mentioned in your author’s note a love for “live-action superheroics”. Most people would have just said “superheroes.” What is it about the live-action adaptations that interest you?

That goes way back to my grade school days, when, while reading superhero comics, I’d be constantly fascinated by the idea of these heroes stepping out of the panels and into the real, physical world. Things like how would they carry themselves, what would their body language be, what would their costumes look like, how would they sound, kept me preoccupied long past the reading of the comic itself.

It was fascinating to see the ‘50’s TV Superman, and the ‘60’s TV Batman and Green Hornet, and even back then, somewhere at the back of my young head, I was beginning to understand that tone was something that affected the entire package, and that you could have wildly different interpretations of the same character and that was fine (certainly, Adam West was not the 1970’s comic Batman, and George Reeves seemed more interested in tackling gangsters and hoods than interstellar menaces like Brainiac). Perhaps more tellingly, I was also being taught, quite subconsciously during those early years, that budget also dictated how a superhero’s live-action adventures were approached and executed.

Then Richard Donner’s Superman detonated across my young geek psyche, and that was it. If I wasn’t a lifelong fan of the stuff yet, I certainly was when I stepped out of the theater. It was the greatest superhero ever to grace a comic book panel, in real life. Yes, a man could indeed fly!

From that point on, it’s been a constant search for all sorts and manner of live-action superheroics, from the low budget ‘80’s Marvel productions like Captain America (with J.D. Salinger’s son as Cap!) to the glorious cheese of the ‘70’s Superman rip-off, Supersonic Man (still a personal favorite) to the fantastic wire fu/men in rubber monster suits extravaganza of Guyver: Dark Hero, with David Hayter, voice of Solid Snake and Captain America, and screenwriter of X-Men and Watchmen playing Guyver when he’s out of the bio-armor (the mind boggles at the audacious level of that geek cred).

The Betamax era brought treasures like the Kirk Alyn Superman serials my way, while today’s internet offers all the episodes of the zany Japanese Spider-Man TV show on marvel.com (who can resist Amazoness with her pink hooker wig?).

There’s the fantastic world of the superhero fan film out there, and the amazing costume work being done on the cosplay scene.

Then there’s the maddening variety of live-action superheroics in non-English tongues: everything from Indonesia’s Panji Manusia Milenium and Superboy on TV, all the way to the big screen, where we find curious gems like Thailand’s Mercury Man and India’s Krrish, the latter complete with Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers!

Not to mention the martial arts badassery courtesy of first, Jet Li, then Andy On in Tsui Hark’s Black Mask movies, or the killer moves brought to us by Marko Zaror in Chile’s Mirageman.

Plus the insane tokusatsu sugar rush of Ultraman or Kamen Rider. (And yes, at this juncture we can safely toss our own Captain Barbell and Darna and Zsa-Zsa Zaturnnah into the mix.)

Now, despite what it may sound like, it’s not just about the kickass action, or the amusement and laughs one can find in some of these titles (and there are those, believe me), but it’s about that universal feeling of hope inherent in the idea of a hero who can make things right by doing what he does best: getting into the spandex and kicking some baddie ass.

There’s something reassuring about that thought, that no matter where we are on the globe, no matter the geographic distance and the cultural differences, there is always that shared belief in the power of the hero to make things right. That’s what I try to find in any title I happen to come across, and it’s there, even if it’s in some tiny moment or throw-away line or some badly-written, awkwardly-acted, and terribly-shot scene, it’s there, and it’s honestly a really nice thing to see.

These days, when part of the definition of “Hollywood summer blockbuster” seems to be the word “superhero,” I’m like a deliriously happy pig at an overflowing trough. Now, it’s become about finding the off-kilter, the atypical, the ones that say more and delve deeper into (or even subvert) the material; the Hancock as opposed to the Iron Man 2, the Defendor as opposed to the Daredevil. (And looking back at that, I realize that I’ve singled out two titles that are actually original pieces, as opposed to comic book adaptations.)

But still, typical narrative or otherwise, original or adapted, it’s about that idea of how a superhero can impact on the real, physical world, and taking that thought all the way to its possible real world end point, how can I emulate the best about a superhero even if I’m not actually one at all?

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PGS: “The Departure” and “Kapre: A Love Story”

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 16 - 2011

Charles Tan’s third solicitation for his run as PGS Online sub-editor is up” “Kapre: A Love Story“, written by Erin Chupeco. Here’s the first paragraph:

This is the tale of Kapre, who lived in ancient trees tangled in shadow. Massive, stubbed fingers the color of faded coffee, scrabbling at tree trunk and bark for sustenance. Irises the color of twin moons, mouth the redness of withered santan. He shinnied up mountains in the heat of day, made nests of dried bones and rain at night. He could see himself in the twisted gnarl of branches, found comfort in the rigidness of bamboo. Nestled in the thickness of wood, Kapre could pretend friendship with plants and soil. Birds found homes within the snarls of his beard. Bees sought honey in the yellows of his eyes.

For those who missed it, the second story solicited by Charles was “The Departure” from the wonderful Ms. Marianne Villanueva (who so charmed us last year). An excerpt:

Her husband rolled over on the bed beside her and groaned. “Is Alex up yet?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” Julietta answered.

“Better get him up, he’s got a long way to drive down the coast.”

Julietta hated it: the few times their son drove north to visit them, her husband always wanted him gone, as early in the day as possible, to “avoid traffic.” She decided she’d make breakfast first. Then she’d wake Alex.

She padded slowly down the stairs in her woolly socks. Why was the sky so — funny looking? Had it always been that way? Shouldn’t she have noticed it before? The houses of her neighbors across the street were shuttered and silent.

Something made her look up, and she thought she saw a giant hand move across the sky. It was just a moment, a glimpse. She shook her head, as if to clear it of cobwebs.

Summer Komik Review Link Roundup

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 11 - 2011

With both the Metro Comic Con and Summer Komikon behind us, the two biggest komik-centric events of the summer (note that the Toycon, while larger, has had a small komiks presence in the past), a slew of reviews, long and short, have been popping up on the Internet, and I thought that now would be a good time to round them up:

EK Gonzales: Reviews of The Filipino Heroes League book 1 (paolo fabregas), Starchild and Jagannath (kevin ray valentino), Save (danny acuna) , Cadre (polyhedron) , Zombies in Manila issues 1-4 (scratch comics) , Gwapoman 2000 (obvious productions) , Kanto, Inc. issue 2 (point zero) , The Marvelous Mega Woman (ernest caritativo)Ang Morion issue 1 (nest comics) , Precinto 13 (alamat), Sagrado Teritoryo (pisara period)Kapitan Tog issue 1 (freely abrigo) , Cat’s Trail Rewind issue 2,3 (elmer & maria cornelio damaso), Work in Progress (hub pacheco/ted pavon), Callwork: A Call Center Life (hazel manzano) , Patintero issue 2, 3 (wallpush productions), Callous: Chocolate Chip Wishes and Caffeine Dreams (carlo san juan), Tokwa’t Baboy (cm) , Mark 9 verse 47 issue 1-4 compilation (meganon comics), Atomic Underground issue 1,2 (atomic underground collective), Force 8 issue 1 (tomokii), Only Ever After (bbqs, iNorth), Slash, Earthborne, MarsMag, Shorts, Mithril Group Anthology, Cat’s Trail Spotlight: Batang Airee at Polaris.


Joanah TC/Ika-Siyam: Reviews of Mukat #2, A Ride on the Call of Will, Hyper Comics – MARK’D, Rampage Comics/I-Rawwrr — Amoy ng Kupfal, Holly Hock, The Monkey and the Turtle (Director’s Cut), The Unwanted, Unos MUNDOS #5, Myth-tech, Fruitshake: Playmate, Fruitshake: Point Blank, Fruitshake: On top of the World, SKETCH #1, Magugunaw na ang Mundo, Nasa’n na ang Labs Ko?!, Ibalong, Patintero, Only Ever After, Pasko sa Pamilya, The Curfew (book 2 Chapter 1), Gatas ng Saging, Dino Shogun, Force 8, Atomic Underground and Full Upgrade, A Certain Comic Artist’s Journal Side A/B, Flipinas ’70

Behold the Geek: Bayan Knights: Gilas, Trese: A Private Collection, The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones

UNWANTED: The Komikero Artists Group Podcast #1: All By Myself: The new podcast has a segment where Gerry Alanguilan reviews Carlo Vergara’s ZsaZsa Zaturnnah: Sa Kalakhang Maynila: Special Preview, and Andrew Villar’s Hari.

Redstone SF Interviews Charles Tan (Part 1)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 9 - 2011

Redstone Science Fiction has part one of a two part interview with Charles Tan. For those who don’t know Charles, he’s an author, editor (Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler; Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009), Philippine spec fic advocate and prolific blogger (he runs Bibliophile Stalker , and contributes to SF Signal and The World SF Blog, amongst others).

The interview touches upon quite a few topics, including the fact that Charles is more well known abroad than in the Philippines, local cyberpunk, and the Philippine authors most likely to become well-known. An excerpt:

Who do you think will become the first Filipino science fiction writer to become well-known?

Science fiction, or does fantasy count, too?

 

Let’s do both.

Well, there’s no real hard science fiction writers that are active, just some people who dabble in science fiction. I dabble in science fiction, and I think that Rochita, also, might dabble in it from time to time. I don’t think that there’s really anyone who is going to make a big impact, although Eliza may, in a few years, through sheer quantity, if nothing else [laughs]. Dean Francis Almar is the first Filipino to be published in “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror”. He was first internationally published in “Strange Horizons”. He will probably be the first Filipino to have a true international following. Whenever I give a book to a foreign writer or friend, it is his.

RK Recommends: “Starve Better” by Nick Mamatas

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 4 - 2011

[New section time: I won't bother putting up reviews of non-Filipino books which I wouldn't recommend, or even those which are merely adequate, but now and then I'd like to recommend something worth reading, especially if there's a digital edition available. Hence, "RK Recommends"]

Nick Mamatas’ “Starve Better” (Kindle version) is a collection of essays focused on the craft and practice of being a writer–with an emphasis on practical advice (as opposed to theory) and shorter pieces of work (as opposed to novels)–and I don’t think there’s anything quite like it on the market. In part, I think this is because I don’t think anyone looks at the business and art of writing (or articulates those views) quite like Mamatas. The current editor of Haikasoru, Mamatas is a critically acclaimed writer and editor who combines a wealth of experience in freelance writing with the bedside manner of (to use a professional wrestling analogy that Mamatas might appreciate) of Bill DeMott (or, for those more familiar with non-wrestling TV dramas,  Dr. Gregory House). Mamatas’ irreverent tone and blunt opinions are part of what made the book so enjoyable (and useful) for me, but prospective readers unfamiliar with his style may want to read a few posts from his blog to see if they feel the same way. Make sure to find a post where Mamatas takes a stance that you don’t agree with (that shouldn’t be too hard) and see if you’re entertained, or at least given pause. (My suggestion: this post on his stance on the obligation to provide constructive criticism, which is, I think, the first post I ever read on his blog.)

Prospective readers (who, I assume, are also writers or writer-aspirants) will also get the most out of the book if “Starve Better” isn’t the first text of writing they’ve read: a few of the best essays in the book (“All Pistons Firing”; “Don’t Throw the Hook”) involve a closer look at common writing tips that may do more harm than good. Actually, a solid foundation in the “basics” of fiction provides the best context with which to enjoy most of the first part of the book, “The Book of Lies”. This part focuses on the craft of writing, particularly short fiction, and the essays provide a good counterweight to the sometimes homogenized writing advice you can find in the standard writing texts. Mamatas also excels at providing striking imagery that makes his uncommon take on issues all the more memorable: he illustrates his position that “There are no rules. Only results matter.” by using the (remarkably apt) analogy of a professional wrestling match; he explains how some bad writing can still manage to be riveting because it takes the point of view, not of a character, but of a movie camera; he compares scene breaks to 800-pound gongs… Like I said, there’s no one quite like Mamatas, and that means that even long-time students of the craft of writing will find something new to chew on–and, for a true student, that different and well-articulated perspective can be invaluable.

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.

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